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Erwin Chemerinsky

We asked Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean & Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law, what has inspired and motivated him throughout his career. This author spotlight gives a glimpse into his passions and what brought him to where he is today.

What or who motivated you to study law?

[EC] I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer. I believed then—and believe now—that law is the most powerful tool for social change.

Did you have a favorite professor in law school? If so, who was the person and what made them stand out?

[EC] My two favorite professors were Mort Horwitz and Larry Tribe. They both were terrific classroom teachers, and they both cared about their students.

What law school course did you enjoy the most?

[EC] Constitutional law

What are your primary areas of writing and teaching? What fascinates you about these areas of law?

[EC] I write in the areas of constitutional law, federal jurisdiction, and criminal procedure. These are all areas of law that affect people, often in the most intimate and important aspects of their lives.

Do (or did) you have a mentor, or someone who has inspired or encouraged you in your writing or teaching?

[EC] I was very fortunate at every law school I have taught to have wonderful colleagues to discuss and read my work: Jeff Shaman and Steve Siegel when I started teaching at DePaul; Larry Simon and Scott Bice at USC; Neil Seigel and Chris Schroeder at Duke; Mario Barnes and Jennifer Chacon at UC Irvine.

What motivated you to write a casebook?

[EC] Most of all, it is so I can have the book I want to teach from. But also it is a way of educating many more students than will be in my classes.

What has been the most influential or pivotal moment in your career?

[EC] When I taught my first day in August 1980, I realized that this is what I want to do for the rest of my career.

What changes in legal education excite you?

[EC] The increased emphasis on experiential education, especially clinical education.

What advice do you have for today’s law students?

[EC] Find happiness, indeed find joy, in law school and then in the practice of law. We all spend too much of our lives at work—and have worked too hard to get here—to settle for anything less.

How do you hope to be remembered by your students or law school?

[EC] As a teacher who cared about them

What are your interests outside of law?

[EC] Spending time with my four children and two grandchildren. I also am a sports fan—a lifelong Cubs fan and have had a part of seasons’ tickets to the Dodgers and Clippers for over 25 years.

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